Precious Metals

Silver Institute examines metals role in technology

Silver is used in many different technology applications including in the manufacture of power rods in nuclear reactors.

Background mining image in public domain; nuclear power rod image by Nic Ransby.

The Silver Institute's 38-page report, "The Role of Silver in the Green Revolution," projects more than 1.5 billion ounces of silver will be consumed through 2030 for green technology applications.

"Silver’s importance to solar energy is well documented and the metal will continue to play a substantial role in this technology," according to the report. "It is estimated that roughly 820 million ounces (Moz) of silver will be utilized by global solar energy applications through 2030." The report was prepared by CRU Consulting, a division of CRU International Limited, in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania.

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Silver is used extensively in the production of photovoltaic cells for solar panels as well as combined with other metals in the manufacture of control rods for nuclear reactors. Some of the demand for silver in the production of photovoltaic cells has been affected by a reduction in the amount of silver used for each cell in a process known as thrifting.

"The main driver for this thrifting is the price of silver; when it more than doubled between 2009 and 2011, the amount of silver in the average PV cell halved from 4 grams to 2.5 grams," according to the report. 

CRU believes that 2017 was likely the peak year for use of silver in the photovoltaic cell industry "but a deceleration in thrifting and continued additions to solar generation capacity will continue to support silver consumption, particularly in the longer term."

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CRU forecasts that annual silver demand for PV cells will likely range between 70 million and 80 million ounces over the next several years before declining to approximately 50 million to 55 million ounces in the mid-2020s.

"We expect that it will then return to growth, reaching 66 million ounces by 2030," according to CRU.

CRU estimates "demand for silver in the three key ‘green’ applications covered in this study to be in the range of 110 million to 140 million ounces each year from 2018 to 2030, with growth in both automotive and solar applications bolstering demand in the longer term, while nuclear provides a much smaller, but nonetheless positive, benefit."

The full report can be accessed here.

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